This is the first in an important series for Doctors Health Press. What is to follow is my special overall look at supplements and their possibilities with cancer. Let’s get the bad news out of the way first.
Cancer is second only to heart disease as the most common cause of death in the United States. Over 1.5 million new cases of cancer will be diagnosed in the coming year. It is estimated that one in two men and one in three women in the United States will develop cancer in their lifetime.
In men, the leading forms of cancer include: prostate (33%), lung and bronchus (14%), colon and rectum (11%), bladder (six percent), melanoma of the skin (four percent), and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (four percent).
In women, the leading types of cancer include: breast (32%), lung and bronchus (12%), colon and rectum (11%), uterus (six percent), non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (four percent).
Once diagnosed, chemotherapy remains the mainstay therapy. Chemotherapy either kills cancer cells or renders them less active by interfering with their ability to grow and spread throughout the body. Categories of chemotherapy include: monoclonal antibodies, tyrosine kinase inhibitors, anti-hormonal (tamoxifen, steroids), epipodophyllotoxins, antimetabolites (5FU, methotrexate), alkylators (cyclophosphamide), plant alkaloids (vincristine, paclitaxel), or antibiotic-derived (anthracyclines, bleomycin).
Chemotherapy could be used before an operation (known as neo-adjuvant or primary chemotherapy), after an operation (known as adjuvant chemotherapy) or during radiation therapy (known as chemoradiotherapy or chemo-radiation). In certain types of cancer, a high dose is needed. This is usually given after a lower dose has eliminated most of the cancer cells in order to prevent recurrence. There are more than 50 drugs commonly used in chemotherapy.
It is common knowledge that many side effects are associated with chemotherapy. They can be short-term or long-term. Short-term side effects include: nausea, vomiting, mucositis, hair loss, rash, fluctuating emotions, fever, fatigue, neuropathy, muscle pain, bone marrow suppression, and thromboembolism. Long-term side effects include: memory loss, leukemia, cardiac dysfunction, weight gain, premature menopause, and infertility.
Up to 90% of patients diagnosed with cancer resort to complementary and alternative medicine, which involves the use of herbs (47%), herbal teas (23%) or vitamins and minerals (12%).
On that note, this series intends to take a critical look at the scientific evidence for and against the use of dietary supplements in cancer patients, to uncover the truth and dispel the myths in this serious subject. Stay tuned for next time!